Karl-Anthony Towns | Kentucky | C-PF | 7-0 | 250
The Timberwolves are sitting in a great position. They were the most injured team in the NBA last season and were rewarded with the #1 overall pick because of it. With hopefully a healthy Rubio and Pek back next season, along with Andrew Wiggins, Towns should be a great fit as a stretch/versatile 4/5 to give the Timberwolves another piece to work with. Having a duo of Wiggins and Towns could carry the Wolves to the playoffs in the future and look to be a team on the rise. Towns goes #1 over Okafor because he is a fantastic FT shooter along with a good defender. He can shoot the hook over both shoulders and has great size. The only thing that scares me with Towns is that he played at Kentucky with so many talented players. The reason it scares me is because when you play at Kentucky with all those highly touted players, they are able to mask any deficiencies a player might have by only putting them in positions where they will succeed and look good for NBA scouts. It is pretty easy to play well when you have Willie Cauley-Stein behind you if you mess up. All-in-all, I think Towns will be a great player in the NBA, and has one of the highest upsides for any rookie.
Jahlil Okafor | Duke | C | 6-11 | 270
The Lakers get the low post presence they are looking for in Okafor. They already have Julius Randle coming back from injury who will man the 4 spot, so getting a low post guy in Okafor will give them a great 4-5 punch for years to come. The Lakers also have a very promising future with those 2 down low, Kobe retiring soon, to go with a major salary cap increase in the NBA. The Lakers will have loads of cash to throw at free agents to be the next face of the franchise, and could look to turn things around very soon. Rumors have recently came out about acquiring Dwayne Wade and also Demarcus Cousins. This would definitely change the team picking at #2 (assuming they would need to get rid of #2 to get Cousins, but the pick will still be Okafor regardless of team). The biggest thing that scares me with Okafor is obviously his free-throw shooting. He shot 51% from the charity stripe, but the odd thing is that he actually has really good form. That makes me believe his struggles were mainly mental last season and will turn it around while he is in the NBA. The other thing that worries me is that even though he has great size (7’5” wingspan), he is a poor defender. I think this is the result that is doesn’t have great lateral quickness, and isn’t a great athlete. I also think he’ll improve in this area in the NBA, but will never be a defensive force.
D’Angelo Russell | Ohio State | SG | 6-5 | 175
D’Angelo Russell is one of my favorite players in the entire NBA draft, and could possibly end up being the best player out of this group. The combo guard from Ohio State is not the best player in the draft in any specific area, but is high on the board in just about every category making him a complete player. If Joel Embiid can get healthy and be the player he is supposed to be, the 76ers have a very good young core in these 2 guys. Russell has great size if he plays PG in the NBA, and is a very good passer and rebounder for the position. He can create for himself and for his teammates and can hit the 3-point shot. The biggest knock on Russell is that he lacks elite athleticism. I think his size helps him with this a bit, but being able to stay in front of the freakish athletes the PG position has in the NBA will be difficult for him.
Emmanuel Mudiay | China | PG | 6-5 | 190
It will be interesting to see if playing in China helps or hurts Mudiay in the NBA draft. Mudiay has often been compared to Russell Westbrook in terms of athleticism, and I think it fits pretty well. Westbrook is more explosive, but in terms of leaping ability and shiftiness, Mudiay has the ability to be similar to Westbrook. Mudiay has great size standing at 6’5”, and is similar to D’Angelo Russell in that he does a little bit of everything. He is great on the boards and is good at distributing to his teammates. The biggest knock on Mudiay is that he has a very streaky jump shot and lacks consistent range. If he works hard on his shot in the mid range and the 3-point line, he has the make up of a star in the NBA.
Justise Winslow | Duke | SF | 6-7 | 230
I am not a Duke fan, but I couldn’t help to root for Justise Winslow. He is the exact type of player every team wants to have in that he will do whatever it takes to win. If he needs to lock down the opposing teams best player, he does that. If he needs to defend the 4 and rebound, he’ll come down with over 10 boards. Justise has great size and a very mature body for his age and is a very good athlete. Free-throw shooting was one area of weakness for Justise as he shot only 64%. He did shoot almost 42% from the 3-point line, so that makes me believe his FT shooting will improve in the NBA as well. The other knock on Justise is that he didn’t alway seem to be consistently aggressive on the offensive end. I think this could have been due to having so many great players and playmakers around him that sometimes he got caught watching. He is a very team oriented player and the Magic will be thrilled to get him at #5.
Willie Cauley-Stein | Kentucky | C | 7-0 | 245
This is a tough pick for me because I see Cauley-Stein as a Tyson Chandler type player, and don’t feel that type of player is worth a #6 pick. I do think Cauley-Stein is more versatile and an overall better athlete than Chandler is, but neither one can get you a basket when you throw the ball to them. Cauley-Stein was unbelievable in college because he could literally guard all 5 positions on the floor. As we saw with the GS Warriors this whole season, having players that can guard multiple positions is huge and can change outcomes of games. One pre draft workout, he did look pretty comfortable shooting the ball and actually surprised me with his form and the shooting display he showcased, but I will need to see it in a game format before I change my judgement on his offensive game.
Kristaps Porzingis | Spain | PF | 7-0 | 220
I’m always very hesitant to project foreign players just because there is very little tape on them. The risk is very high because the style of play is very different overseas then what it is here in the United States. The reward could be very large though when it comes to Porzingis. He has great athleticism and can stretch the floor with his jumper. He does need to gain a lot of weight, and it will be interesting to see what position he is able to guard without getting manhandled by grown men that he will be going against. Bottom line is that he is a great prospect with a lot of upside, and the Nuggets need a true go-to player. He apparently had a great pre-draft workout and all it takes is one scout to fall in love with a player, so I expect him to go high in the draft, but this is where I would be comfortable taking Porzingis.
Mario Hezonja | Spain | SG | 6-8 | 215
Mario Hezonja falls under the same category as Porzingis because he is another player that is relatively unknown to the public. Hezonja is a very good athlete and is also a great shooter. He has range that can stretch the defense and could end up being a great pickup for the Pistons at #8. The Pistons are set down low, so they will be looking to bolster their wing with this pick. I think getting a shooter with the ability to take it to the hole and finish above the rim will be a good value pick that also has a lot of upside to grow. Hezonja also had a very good pre-draft workout and some have him going as high as #3 to the 76ers, but I don’t think the 76ers can gamble that much on a player. The fanbase deserves to see a team that belongs in the NBA, so I see them going with Russell. Pistons should feel very good at #8 takings Hezonja, and could end up with a very productive player for years to come.
Stanley Johnson | Arizona | SF | 6-7 | 245
Stanley Johnson had a grown mans body when he was about 16 years old. This is a tough pick for me, since the Hornets already have Kidd-Gilchrist for their starting SF. But, Stanley Johnson is someone who does a little bit of everything type of forward that can help in many areas. Kidd-Gilchrist has essentially no offense besides in transition and as a slasher. He still hasn’t developed any sort of jump shot, and that is why Stanley Johnson should be the pick. He can score from different levels, play defense, and rebound the basketball. One downside of Johnson is that he doesn’t have great quickness, but he has been able to get by with what he has because he has great size and bullies his way most of the time.
Kelly Oubre | Kansas | SF | 6-6 | 205
If you would have asked anyone who follows basketball early in the college basketball season if Kelly Oubre would be a lottery pick, most would think you are crazy for even asking the question. Kelly Oubre barely saw the floor the first 10-12 games of the season, but by conference play, was a starter and a key contributor for the Jayhawks in earning their 11th consecutive conference championship. Kelly Oubre has the potential to be an elite defender in the NBA with his great quickness and ridiculous 7’2” wingspan. He gets so many tips on normal passes and as well on the ball because the ball handler doesn’t think he is in the play. Oubre has the potential to be a great wing rebounder as well with his athleticism and wingspan. Right now, Oubre has an inconsistent jump shot, but does show flashes of pretty good range. He does need to tighten up his handle which will also allow him to be able to create more offense for himself. He is very good at finishing through contact at the rim and will only improve as he puts on more weight. I expect the Heat to pick up Oubre at #10 and will be able to step in and be a solid contributor early on in his career, with an upside to be able to be a defensive stopper and above average offensive player in the NBA.
If you have any questions or want any more of my opinions, be sure to comment below and I’ll answer as many as possible!
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Caleb Boone